What is MMP?
MMP or mixed-member proportional representation is a political system used in places like New Zealand and Germany, where voters cast a two-part ballot, selecting both a preferred local candidate and a political party.
In Ontario's version, voters would choose "local" MPPs in the traditional way in 90 newly created, larger ridings instead of the existing 107 constituencies. With their vote for the party of their choice on the second part of the ballot, they would also select an additional 39 MPPs from lists of candidates compiled by the parties.
These "list" MPPs would be elected based on their parties' popular vote, to top up a party's tally of "local" MPPs and more accurately reflect results across the province. The Legislature would be expanded to 129 MPPs to accommodate the changes.
What are the advantages of MMP?
Smaller parties like the Greens, the Family Coalition, and the Freedom Party would have a chance at winning seats in the Legislature even if they cannot win a riding outright. Any party that wins at least 3 per cent of the popular vote will be awarded "list" seats. It would mean the end of majority governments when a party has won less than half the vote and prevent scenarios like former NDP premier Bob Rae's landslide victory in 1990 with 37.6 per cent of the vote.
What are the disadvantages of MMP?
Critics charge the 39 "list" MPPs would not be directly elected and the parties could use the lists as a sort of Senate to reward party apparatchiks, financial donors or others. As well, it would likely spell the end of decisive, majority governments since no party has won 50 per cent or more of the popular vote since 1937. Although a party could still win a majority of seats with less than 50% of the vote.
Will these members be chosen from the party faithful, or will they have to be nominated and campaign for the opportunity to be placed on a party list?
How each party selects its list remains to be seen. Even in the current system, the parties have different nominating systems: Premier Dalton McGuinty is allowed to appoint five candidates of the Liberals' 107 without any competitive nomination process, while Progressive Conservative Leader John Tory's party doesn't allow for any appointed candidates. How each party selects its list candidates would likely up to the party. Some may opt for an open, all-party vote, while others may just have party insiders choose the list.
Won't parties use the lists to reward party insiders, donors or those that want to avoid a direct election because of something in their past?
The critics of this system suggest that party hacks will be awarded seats and the voters will have no say. This is not how it has worked in New Zealand, Germany and other countries that have adopted these reforms. Parties will be careful who they put on the lists because because the media, interest groups and the general public will scrutinize these lists carefully. A contentious names will likely harm the party vote. In fact all seats in the Israeli parliament are filled from lists. There are no directly elected representatives.
How is MMP more democratic when there are representatives in the Legislature who will not be elected directly by the voters?
The current system is very much dominated by 2 parties that don't look very much different. The portion of the public that does not support these parties are essentially disenfranchised by our electoral system. Currently, a party that is supported by 10% of voters might not get any seats while a party with 40% support can get 70% of the seats. Under the MMP, parties like the Green Party will likely win some seats and represent the views of their constituents in the Legislature. That strengthens our democratic system.